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Film / Dead Man's Shoes

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Richard and Anthony
"God will forgive them. He'll forgive them and allow them into heaven. I can't live with that."
Richard (opening lines)

Dead Man's Shoes is a 2004 British revenge thriller directed by Shane Meadows, who co-wrote it with star Paddy Considine.

Richard (Considine) is a squaddie who has left the army and returned to his home town. Not for a happy family reunion, but to brutally murder the gang of drug dealers who tormented his autistic younger brother, Anthony (Toby Kebbell), after he left to join the forces.

Notable for its very dark tone, a squalid setting in a dismal overcast town, and standout performances from Considine (as Richard), Kebbell (as Anthony), and Gary Stretch (as Sonny, the leader of the gangsters), all of whom were subsequently nominated for awards.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: The boxing gloves hanging up in Sonny's house (actor Gary Stretch is a professional boxer).
  • The Alleged Car: The villains drive an ancient Citroën that one of them had apparently inherited from his grandmother, complete with a My Car Hates Me moment when Richard is advancing on them with an axe.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Richard's favorite tactic for freaking people out is to leave evidence that he's been on their turf
  • Aloof Big Brother: Is putting it nicely.
  • Anti-Hero: Richard is a sympathetic Serial Killer; his victims are the gang who bullied his mentally disabled younger brother when they were teenagers and drove him to suicide.
  • The Atoner:
    • This is a possible interpretation for Richard's actions. He actually hated and was disgusted by his brother's mental condition, and his revenge on the bullies who tormented and drove Anthony to suicide are at least partly driven by guilt.
    • The final member of the gang Richard hunts down is also depicted to be this, being the only member we see express genuine remorse over their actions towards Anthony (as opposed to simply fear of his brother's retribution) and having moved away from his former life.
  • Beard of Sorrow: In Flash Back we see Richard clean shaven in his army uniform at his brother's funeral, yet in the present day he's got a somewhat scraggly beard.
  • Best Served Cold: As especially evidenced by his confrontation with Sonny, Richard is completely calm and calculated in his execution.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The thugs toyed with and tormented Anthony, which inadvertently led to his suicide. Richard brutally slaughters the thugs. Neither side is exactly in the right.
  • Black Comedy: There are some moments of very dark humour sprinkled throughout.
  • The Bully: All of the gang members, but especially Sonny.
  • Bully Hunter: Richard
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: After brutally killing the first gang member with an axe, Richard uses the dead man's blood to smear the words "One Down" on the wall.
  • Country Matters: When a member of the gang threateningly asks him what he's looking at in a pub, Richard responds with an unhinged snarl: "YOU, YOU CUNT!"
  • Dead All Along: Anthony has been in Richard's head the whole time, and has clearly driven him completely mad.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: the flashbacks.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The gearbox breaking.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Played with. We know from early on that the thugs have done something nasty to Anthony, but he doesn't seem much worse for wear. We find out later that Anthony is actually dead, having committed suicide as a result of their cruelty. Even still, the thugs never intended for Anthony to die, so murdering them all in as cruel a means as possible is still pretty disproportionate.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Just before the third act, only Sonny and two other gang members are left alive. Richard ends up drugging them in secret and once that happens, he pretty casually drags Sonny into another room and unceremoniously shoots him in the head, leaving only two members left. They don’t survive much longer, however.
  • Driven to Suicide: Anthony. And Richard, in a way.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "You know why people give kids drugs? So they can control their minds. 'cause they're fucking weak-minded themselves."
  • Fan Disservice: Sonny forces a girl to have sex with Anthony, a developmentally disabled teenager being bullied by a gang.
  • Flyaway Shot: The film ends with the camera flying out like an angel going to heaven.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Both the conversation about the school sports day and the lyrics to the opening track "Vessel in Vain."
    • Anthony is never seen without Richard, and is always wearing the same clothes as in the flashbacks.
  • Flashback: Anthony's story is told in grainy monochrome flashbacks.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Invoked by Richard, who uses one to freak out the drugged gangsters. Herbie thinks he's an elephant.
  • Genre Mashup: It's basically one of Meadows's typical Kitchen Sink Dramas crossed with a Slasher Movie.
  • Happier Home Movie: The opening consists of heartwarming video footage of Richard and Anthony as little kids.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Richard; "You, you were supposed to be a monster - now I'm the fucking beast. There's blood on my hands, from what you made me do."
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Richard's "suicide" scene.
  • I Have a Family
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: The thugs shoot one of their own. Needless to say, Richard is greatly amused.
  • Implacable Man: Richard, particularly the scene where he comes slowly striding up to a car full of gangsters with an axe in hand, as they try desperately to start the car.
  • Improv: Many of the scenes, especially those of the villains chatting to one another, were improvised.
  • It's Personal: And how.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Subverted: wielding a katana doesn't do Richard's prey much good at all. It pretty much highlights the way the villains do everything they think badass gangsters should, while their opponent is a no-nonsense Combat Pragmatist.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Somewhat after the fact, Richard returns from the army after discovering his brother has been bullied and goes about giving the bullies a taste of their own medicine with interest.
  • Mind Screw: In-universe
  • Mood Whiplash: The film frequently segues from light-hearted banter to some pretty graphic physical or psychological violence.
  • Mook Horror Show: In particular the Mushroom Samba scene. Coming downstairs, stoned, to find a man in a gas mask staring through the window? Yikes.
  • Murder-Suicide: This is Richard's plan.
  • Mushroom Samba: Richard drugs some of the thugs with hallucinogens so his Mind Screw will be all the scarier. It's also used as a method of forcing the gangsters to "empathise" by giving them the same mental capacity as his brother.
  • Never Bring A Knife To A Fistfight: The thugs go after Richard with a rifle while he's armed only with a wood axe. It ends poorly for the thugs.
  • New Old West: A rare British example, taking Western themes and setting them in Matlock.
  • Oh, Crap!: The gang's reaction when they find out who Richard is.
  • One-Hit Kill: Richard kills Soz with an open-palm strike to the nose, likening it to "shutting him off".
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Not only is Richard determined to kill 'em all but he wants to inflict just as much psychological damage as was dished out to his brother.
  • The Reveal: The fact that Anthony was dead all along, becomes apparent only towards the end of the movie.
  • Revenge: Richard wants to avenge the trauma suffered by his brother Anthony
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Richard's quest to kill the gang of petty criminals who tormented his brother.
  • Rule of Scary:
    • Why is he wearing a gas mask? Because it's fucking creepy.
    • Richard manages to start off the film making an apology a disturbing experience for the recipient.
  • Scenery Porn: There are a lot of lovely shots of the beautiful scenery of the Midlands — all the better to contrast with the depressing village setting.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: "I love English cock." And loads of others.
  • Serial Killer: Richard, though his motive makes him more sympathetic than most examples.
    • Technically, Richard is a spree killer since all of his killings are implied to occur in under thirty days.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: A possible interpretation of Richard.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance
  • These Hands Have Killed: Mark.
  • Time-Passes Montage: The movie begins with a montage of Super 8 footage of Richard and Anthony growing up.
  • Vigilante Man
  • Wham Line: "He was a fucking embarrassment to me". This completely changes the audience's perception of Richard's motivation for the murders and his relationship with his brother.


Video Example(s):


"You just fuckin' shot Al!"

Attempting to draw Richard, the man after them for bullying his brother, out, Sonny and his gang end up accidentally shooting one of their members in the head instead.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / IJustShotMarvinInTheFace

Media sources: